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Making Time to Enjoy Islam

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In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Grantor of Mercy.

“Indeed, these people love the immediate and leave behind them a grave Day.” [al-Insân (76): 27]

Many times, the vicious rat-race of the modern lifestyle cheats the Muslim of their greatest resource; a meaningful connection with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Even when we stop to squeeze in the prayer before its time expires, or resort to duâ’ (supplication) after all else fails, the enjoyment and transformative force of these devotions is largely non-existent in our lives. Even those who notice how tasteless life has become due to superficial connectivity (read: social media), their resolutions end at reconnecting with their family and loved ones. Although important, can family ever love you, rescue you, deter you, heal you, appreciate you, understand you – as Allah can?

For this very reason, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) made it crystal clear that we should celebrate the rope He extended from the heavens, and the fact that He made you of its people solely by His grace, and that these two are greater than everything life has to offer. Say, ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than all they accumulate. [Yoonus (10): 58] Several companions of the Prophet ﷺ would say, “The bounty of Allah [referred to here] is the Quran, and His Mercy is Islam.” Those two are better than everything humanity can accumulate. It’s the life money cannot buy, the clarity that no genius can discover, the strength that vanquishes armies and anxieties, and the inner-peace that no tragedy can undermine.

Honestly speaking, who finds fulfillment in their servitude of Allah?

Who lives that feeling of privilege which Bakr al-Muzani (رحمه الله) expressed when saying, “Who is like you, O son of Adam? You have been given unrestricted access to [your ablution] water and the prayer?”

When al-Husayn b. ‘Ali (رحمه الله) would wash up for salâh, they would ask him why his face would always go flush, to which he responded, “Don’t you know who I am about to stand before?” Can we identify the last time such an awe overtook us?

As we fulfill our “needs” for gizmos, gadgets, likes, and shares – do we pity ourselves like ‘Abdullâh b. al-Mubârak (رحمه الله) pitied us when he said, “How tragic [is the condition] of those addicted to this world; they left it without tasting the most delightful thing in it.” They asked, “What is that?” He said, “Being acquainted with Allah, the Exalted.”

Shaykh al-Islâm Ibn Taymiya (رحمه الله) says, “Whoever becomes accustomed to isolating himself [at times] for intimately conversing with his Lord, the Mighty and Majestic, he tastes such a sweetness in being acquainted with his Lord, and such a bliss in speaking to Him, that the world and everything in it becomes petty in his eyes. For this reason, one of the early Muslims said, ‘I could have a need from Allah, so I call upon Him, then find such a delight in knowing Him and a sweetness in conversing with Him that I don’t wish that my need be immediately fulfilled – out of fear that this [feeling] would leave me, for the self only cares for its share, and it turns away upon receiving it.’”[1]

Another early scholar said, “I supplicate to Allah for a need, and if He fulfils it, I become overjoyed. If He does not, I am overjoyed tenfold. This is because the former is solely my preference, and the latter is the choice of Allah, Knower of the Unseen.”

Are these stations actually attainable? Absolutely, so long as you are committed to changing your lifestyle – albeit gradual – and fighting to remain protective of that commitment. It may sound like a grind, and it might be, but be certain that your compensation – in both worlds – will factor in your degree of difficulty. After all, Allah is ash-Shakoor (the Most Appreciating). He will appreciate your attempts even if you falter, and make it worth your while in ways unimaginable. He will infuse you with strength from the moment you decide to try and climb, and He will lace the cuts and bruises with a sweetness that carries you forward till you meet Him.

Also, be sure that avoiding this “grind” is a façade. Our dunya (material world) offers little comfort with much rigour, while our deen (religious commitment) demands some rigour for much comfort in return, even in this life. Many of us believe, even if we dare not speak it, that an upgrade in our religiosity means embracing a restrictive lifestyle. The Quran, however, tells a different story. At the onset of Surat TâHâ, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “We have not send down to you the Quran that you become distressed.” [TâHâ (20): 2] And at its conclusion, the Most High reiterates, “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a constricted life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [TâHâ (20): 124] Though this stands true for this world, the Prophet ﷺ adds that they will be constricted in their graves as well, to the point that their ribs intertwine, before being resurrecting blind on the Last Day. Such a fate was only suitable, for they chose the tight life in this world, and never made time to appreciate the light Allah shined with His Prophet ﷺ.

Therefore, Allah chose you, by guiding you to Islam, because He wants prosperity for you and an eased life sheltered in faith, while most people live empty, vulnerable lives. When was the last time you stopped to consider this immense privilege Allah has favoured you with? “Look how We have favoured [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction.” [al-Isrâ’ (17): 21] Others were smarter than you, some had better resources than you, but it was you He chose to guide. Will that not give you pause, and a fervent to capitalize?

You may think that enhancing your spirituality is a lonely pursuit. Luckily, and unlike college, Allah also allows you to plagiarize your spirituality! He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even encourages you to imitate others – beginning with the Prophet ﷺ, then his matchless Companions, then the righteous scholars and dedicated worshippers who toiled throughout history to recalibrate their hearts and minds for the better. This is also why the Quran calls us to keep good company, all because inculcating these spiritual values requires mentorship, and a diffusion of faith from one heart to another. Reading their legacies definitely qualifies, or else the Prophet ﷺ would have only been an inspiration for a single generation, and we all know how his story never falls to infuse us each time.

Finally, “It’s not about how good you are, it’s about how bad you want it.” In high school, we wrote that line on our game-sneakers, only realizing later that much worthier ambitions than basketball deserved that tunnel-vision determination. But the statement certainly stands true in deen: your survival depends on that heightened sense of urgency within you, as the Prophet ﷺ said, Whoever fears will begin his journey [extra early] in the middle of the night, and whoever begins his journey in the middle of the night will surely reach the destination. Indeed, the merchandise of Allah of precious. Indeed, the merchandise of Allah is Paradise.”[2] Did you get the message? Keep the flame on. Focus on it. Hover over it. Protect it. Don’t let the raging storm around you distract you from it. You have no idea how many folks – starting with Shaytan himself – thought it depended on how good you are, or how many books you’ve read, or talks you’ve heard, or fans you’ve secured. It’s not about any of that; it’s about that burning flame inside you sincerely longing for Allah.

That longing and urgency for Allah is what will ultimately fuel your course of action, and make the sacrifices enjoyable. As the earliest Muslims said, “The most delightful thing in this world is knowing Him and longing for Him, just as the most delightful thing in the hereafter is meeting Him and looking at Him.”

Make time to nourish that longing through routine devotion, regularly reflecting on the Quran, and by asking Allah for it, as your Prophet ﷺ used to do: “…and I ask You for the delight of looking at Your face, and [for] the longing to meet You (wa asa’aluka ladhat an-nadhari ilâ wajhik, wash-shawqa ilâ liqâ’ik).”[3]

Salutations and peace be upon our beloved Muhammad, and all praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

[1] See: Majmu‘ Fatâwâ Ibn Taymiya (10/334, 22/385)

[2] Collected by at-Tirmidhi (2450) from Abu Hurayra (rA)

[3] Collected by Ahmad (30/265) from ‘Ammâr b. Yâsir (rA)

Graduate of English Literature; Translator for IIPH, AMJA, and Mishkah; Da'wah Director @ Muslims Giving Back; Student @ Mishkah University. More blessed than I know, and more than I deserve.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Talal Itani

    May 31, 2017 at 6:51 PM

    [Quran Chapter 63]

    9. O you who believe! Let neither your possessions nor your children distract you from the remembrance of God. Whoever does that—these are the losers.

    10. And give from what We have provided for you, before death approaches one of you, and he says, “My Lord, if only You would delay me for a short while, so that I may be charitable, and be one of the righteous.”

    11. But God will not delay a soul when its time has come. God is Informed of what you do.

    https://goo.gl/zQyl32

  2. Avatar

    MK

    May 31, 2017 at 6:52 PM

    Simply beautiful!

  3. Avatar

    Shan

    May 31, 2017 at 7:02 PM

    Thank you so much. This is really what I need…

  4. Avatar

    saeed Muhammed lawan

    June 1, 2017 at 2:28 AM

    Jazakallahu kayr ! related article is what Muslims ummah need at this time.

  5. Avatar

    Hend Abuauf

    June 7, 2017 at 8:40 AM

    Jazaka Allahu Khairan, very nice article, Islam is not only a religion it is a way of life. Allah created us and he definitly knows what is the best for us. Living Your life in the way that pleases Allah will make you happier and more peaceful

  6. Avatar

    Simeen

    July 23, 2017 at 2:05 AM

    Subhanallah! Barakallahu feek! May Allah ta’ala give us all the tawfeeq to implement right away!

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14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza

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I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Kaaba

Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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